Global Hawk Buzzes Kodiak on First NOAA/NASA Mission

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Jay Barrett/KMXT

Kodiak was part of earth science history last week…. Well, it was within sight of the history being made, anyway. An unmanned aircraft flying at over 60,000 feet flew across the North Pacific Ocean from California and turned around just south of the island on Wednesday. The drone was a Global Hawk U-A-S, or "unmanned aerial system," owned by NASA. The mission it flew was in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

(Global 1 6 sec "This was an historic flight … of airborne science.")

That’s David Fahey (fay-hee), a research physicist with the NOAA Earth Systems Research Lab in Boulder, Colorado. He was the co-mission scientist on the program:

(Global 2 38 sec "This was the first mission … we finish this project.")

The decision to fly the Global Hawk from Dryden Flight Research Center in California the 4,500 nautical miles to Kodiak’s neighborhood was made in part by the desire to measure the break up of what is known as the polar vortex, an upper atmosphere cyclone, which governs winter weather in the northern hemisphere:

(Global 3 35 sec "It’s a very interesting … right near Kodiak Island.")

While on the flight the Global Hawk also followed the path of a NOAA (noah) satellite to help calibrate and validate its measurements. Fahey said NOAA’s Global Hawk, similar to the drones used by the military, is the only fully automatic aircraft in the world, capable of taking off, flying its mission and landing with only the click of a mouse at the control center. It can fly over 10,000 miles, meaning it can go almost anywhere in the world, and its 30-hour endurance is the longest range yet for any scientific aircraft:

(Global 4 32 sec "You can use that two ways … in the air for a long time.")

The Global Hawk has a wing span greater than a Boeing 737, but its fuselage is only 44-feet long. It has a payload of 1,000 pounds and flies about 450 miles per hour.

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